LOS ANGELES — Stephen Hillenburg, who supplied his double loves of drawing and also marine biologic to spawn the absurd undersea world of “SpongeBob SquarePants,” has died, Nickelodeon announced Tuesday.

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Hillenburg died Monday of Lou Gehrig’s disease, likewise known together ALS, the cable network stated in a statement. He was 57.

He had actually announced he had actually the condition in march 2017. His death comes just weeks ~ the passing of an additional cartoon hero in Marvel creator Stan Lee.

Hillenburg conceived, wrote, produced and also directed the animated collection that began in 1999 and bloomed into numerous episodes, movies and a Broadway show.


“His utterly original characters and also the civilization of Bikini Bottom will lengthy stand as a reminder the the value of optimism, friendship and also the endless power of imagination.”

The absurdly jolly SpongeBob and his yell-along theme track that opened “Who resides in a pineapple under the sea?!” quickly appealed to college kids and parents as lot as that did kids.

“The fact that it’s undersea and also isolated from our civilization helps the personalities maintain their own culture,” Hillenburg called The associated Press in 2001. “The significance of the show is that SpongeBob is an innocent in a human being of jaded characters. The remainder is absurd packaging.”

Its substantial cast of oceanic creatures had SpongeBob’s starfish sidekick Patrick, his tightwad ceo Mr. Krabs, squirrel pal Sandy Cheeks and always-exasperated neighbor Squidward Tentacles.

While Hillenburg introduced and popularized exotic creatures prefer the sea sponge (which in the real world is not square,) Bikini Bottom was a realm prefer no other, real or fictional. SpongeBob deserve to play his nose favor a flute and also could not probably be more happiness to job-related his fast-seafood task of flipping Krabby Patties.

But he has his troubles, too. He constantly fails his boat-driving test, forcing his scared blowfish teacher to inflate. In one episode he ill a damaged butt and is afraid to leaving his pineapple house for days.

“I don’t want to face my fears,” SpongeBob, voiced by Tom Kenny, says in an additional episode. “I’m afraid of them!”


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The SpongeBob Squarepants balloon is held during the 91st Macy’s Thanksgiving day Parade in new York, new York, Nov. 23, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri


Born in ~ his father’s military post in Lawton, Oklahoma, Hillenburg graduated from Humboldt State college in California in 1984 v a degree in natural source planning with focus on maritime resources, and also went on come teach maritime biology in ~ the Orange County maritime Institute.

While there he attracted a comic, “The Intertidal Zone,” the he provided as a teaching tool. The featured anthropomorphic ocean creatures that were precursors to the personalities on “SpongeBob.”

Hillenburg shifted to drawing and earned a understand of fine arts level in computer animation from the California academy of the arts in 1992.

That exact same year he produced an animated short called “Wormholes” that won festival plaudits and helped land him a task on the Nickelodeon show “Rocko’s modern Life,” whereby he functioned from 1993 come 1996 prior to he started to construct SpongeBob’s undersea civilization of Bikini Bottom, which proved off his expertise of naval life and willingness to throw all the details out the window.

“We understand that fish don’t walk,” he told the AP, “and the there is no organized community with roads, whereby cars space really boats. And also if you recognize much about sponges, you understand that life sponges aren’t square.”

The present was an instant hit that has lost no inert in the nearly twenty years since the creation and also helped specify the culture of Nickelodeon.


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This image released through Boneau/Bryan-Brown mirrors a power of “SpongeBob SquarePants,” in brand-new York. The Tony Awards race is conquered by big established brands, including Disney’s “Frozen,” J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” franchise, Tina Fey’s “Mean Girls” and Nickelodeon’s “SpongeBob SquarePants.” The nominations for the 72nd Tony Awards will certainly be announced top top Tuesday, may 1. (Joan Marcus/Boneau/Bryan-Brown via AP)


“He to be a lover friend and also long-time creative partner to everyone at Nickelodeon, and our mind go out to his whole family,” Nickelodeon’s explain said. “His utterly initial characters and the civilization of Bikini Bottom will lengthy stand as a reminder of the worth of optimism, friendship and the countless power that imagination.”

Its practically 250 episodes have actually won 4 Emmy Awards and 15 Kids’ an option Awards, and led to an countless line of merchandise come rival any type of other pop social phenomenon the the 2000s.

“When you set out to carry out a show about a sponge, friend can’t suspect this sort of craze,” Hillenburg called the AP in 2002.

In 2004, the show shifted come the huge screen through “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie” and also a 2015 sequel, “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge the end of Water.”


“The essence of the display is that SpongeBob is an chaste in a people of jaded characters. The remainder is absurd packaging.” — Stephen Hillenburg

Intensely affiliated in every element of the present initially, Hillenburg after the 2004 film stepped back into an executive producer role on the show, whereby he stayed for the remainder of his life.

A musical phase adaptation bowed top top Broadway in 2017, through music from such stars together Steven Tyler, Sara Bareilles and also John Legend. It earned 12 Tony compensation nominations, consisting of one for finest performance through a leading actor for Ethan Slater.

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“I am heartbroken to hear of the passing of Stephen Hillenburg,” Slater claimed in an e-mail Tuesday. “Through functioning on ‘SpongeBob,’ I got to understand him not only as a creative genius, but as a important generous and also kind person. He warmly adopted us top top Broadway as the newest members of his exorbitant ‘SpongeBob’ family, and also made it so clean from the get-go why he is for this reason beloved: genuine kindness.”

Hillenburg is made it through by his wife of twenty years Karen Hillenburg, boy Clay, mother Nancy Hillenburg, and also a brother, Brian Kelly Hillenburg.


Left: Stephen Hillenburg, creator the the renowned animated collection Spongebob Squarepants, is interviewed by Reuters in Singapore, Jan. 28, 2005. REUTERS/Luis Enrique Ascui


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